There’s something very powerful in this colour and I always knew it. And here’s the proof.
It happened some days ago as I was organizing my Kraftwerk collection. I was searching for details about the Mensch Maschine album and the first place that I visited was of course Wikipedia.
Along with the usual trivia, the article contained information about the cover artwork, which was criticized for having a fascist undertones at the time the album came out. However, as the author noted, it’s actually more related to the early, pre-war Soviet art:
Communist imagery of the inter-war period of the Twentieth Century used limited production techniques (hampered by limited supply of inks and primitive printing processes) and so they ended up with a distinct, orange/red, black and white colour scheme with sharp lines and blocky shapes. This technique gave a cold, brash and brassy look to the work. Combined with the agitprop messages of socialistic eastern bloc countries, the imagery had power to it.
I have some doubts whether the actual “limited supply” was the main factor that influenced the early Soviet aesthetic, or it was the philosophy of Constructivism itself but whatever the truth is, nobody can deny its raw power.
The art from that time had straightforward, simple messages, and the attitude resembles the modern, post-60′s advertising techniques where little is always more and every letter has a “price”. This simplicity provoked almost immediate reaction and in addition, the red colour provided a “visual anchor” to make the overall effect even more powerful.
The poet-artist Vladimir Mayakovsky and Rodchenko worked together and called themselves “advertising constructors”. Together they designed eye-catching images featuring bright colours, geometric shapes, and bold lettering. The lettering of most of these designs was intended to create a reaction, and function on emotional and substantive levels – most were designed for the state-run department store Mosselprom in Moscow, for pacifiers, cooking oil, beer and other quotidian products, with Mayakovsky claiming that his ‘nowhere else but Mosselprom’ verse was one of the best he ever wrote.
As far as I know, this is the birth of the modern cult of simplicity, an aesthetic which got so widespread and universally accepted that it’s very difficult to recognize its roots or what exactly caused it – the political or the economical desire to “unite” the people (or the customers, respectively).
I’ve never been a big fan of simplicity but it was interesting to experiment with it and I can say I’m pretty satisfied with the results. The goal was to stick to a set of restrictions – the shapes had to be as simple as possible and their number had to be limited. In the end, the only real colour had to be red (if we assume black and white aren’t, which is actually true). For the themes, I used a collection of songs by Rammstein.